Picnic in Speculator

Great food, good company and even a little history along the Sacandaga River Pathway 

This week I had a meeting in the Speculator, New York area of the Adirondacks. When my meeting concluded, I stepped out of the air conditioned building and was greeted by sunshine and a warm, gentle breeze. It was so nice out, that the though of going back indoors to eat lunch didn't appeal to me. Therefore, I decided that I would grab a sandwich and eat outside.

Finding my "French Louie"

As I drove through Speculator looking to pick up lunch, I passed a variety of restaurants, but it was the blinking coffee sign in the window of the Timberland Cafe & Bakery that grabbed my attention. Anyone who knows me, knows that I don't travel far without a fresh cup of coffee close by. The outside of the restaurant was clean and simple, a front deck held a couple of picnic tables coved by large umbrellas. However, it was when I walked through the door, that the Timberland Cafe & Bakery truly came alive. The walls were brightly painted and there were large chalk boards menus covering the entire length of the building. The restaurant served breakfast all day, a feature I normally love.  But today, I was looking for a sandwich (pancakes don't always make the best picnic lunch).

Timberland Cafe in Speculator, New York
Timberland Cafe in Speculator, New York

I ordered "The French Louie" which was a white tuna and veggie sandwich served on a ciabatta. I felt The French Louie was fitting since I was in Speculator after all, the home and final resting place of the famous Adirondack hermit guide & trapper, French Louie.

The sandwich came up in as little time it took me to fix a cup of coffee and take a couple of photos. I paid the friendly cashier and was on my way.

Finding A Picnic Location

About a quarter mile from the Timberland Cafe & Bakery is the Speculator Town Beach, flanked by a beautiful point. This looked like a great spot for lunch. Across the street was a giant pavilion where the local library was holding a family event. Even though the event looked well attended, there was still plenty of parking. I pulled in and parked my car, kicked off my heels in exchange for a more comfortable pair of shoes, grabbed my lunch and began to head across the street.

Discovering the Sacandaga River Pathway & Picnic Area

It was just when I was about to cross the road that a sign for the Sacandaga Pathway and Picnic Area caught my attention, so instead I decided to check it out.

Along the left side of the pavilion a paved walkway lead to a nature trail gateway. Nearby I could see some different informational signs flaking the walkway and a small lean-to. I followed the trail stopping to read the signs and a trail map. Because I was wearing office attire and flip flops, I knew an aggressive hike was not in store for me today, but a nice nature walk sounded like the nice complement to my "French Louie" tuna sandwich.

Sacandaga Trail Map
Sacandaga Trail Map

The Sacnadaga River Pathway consists of a network of loops featuring historic exhibits and informational signs about the trail's natural ecosystem. I was on a time restrant, so I knew I couldn't explore the whole trail system. According to the map, the "River Overlook" looked like a fairly short walk, and I choose that as my picnic location.

The trail started off on a beautiful boardwalk, one of the signs along the boardwalk explained how the trail system was built. The boardwalk itself floats on about 20 feet of root mass and decaying plant matter. It was designed that way to allow the visitor to get up close and personal with nature. The trail was a labor intensive project that was built by community volunteers. I am always amazed by how many of the spectacular Adirondack attractions are build as a grass routes effort, simply for enjoyment by community members and visitors alike. It is moments and places like this, that I reminded that we truely live in a truly wonderful place.


As I followed the pathway to my destination, there were interpretive signs on everything from plants and flowers to birds and mammals. Just prior to reaching the overlook, I found the first historic exhibit along the trail network: "The Logging Exhibit." It featured a couple of giant anchors that were once used during log drives along the Sacandoga River and Lake Pleasant.

Lumberjack Exhibit
Lumberjack Exhibit


The River Overlook

As I approached the overlook just in time to watch some kayakers paddle along the river. I took a moment to take in the surroundings, then began to unpack my lunch.

Paddling past the Sacandaga River Pathway Overlook in Speculator, New York
Paddling past the Sacandaga River Pathway Overlook in Speculator, New York

I was as pleasantly surprised by the sandwich when I opened the box, as I was the atmosphere of the restaurant when I opened the door. It looked tasty and I was excited to dig in.

Lunch Companions

As I was about to to take my first bite, I heard a voice coming my direction from the trail. It was a gentleman who was asking if I mind if he came out on the overlook to show the two young boys who were hiking with him. I thought that was a very polite gesture, so I welcomed them to join me and invited them to share the bench to enjoy their lunch. He was a retired local school teacher and the two boys, ages 8 and 5, were his grandsons up visiting from the Bahamas.

After finishing our lunch and exchanging stories and information about our two Adirondack hometowns: Tupper Lake and Speculator, I took the opportunity to ask him some questions about the area. I am always looking to learn more about other great spots that I should add to my list never ending list of places to explore. (I'm starting to call it my personal 46er...but that is another blog.)

Q: "If I am looking to go for a paddle, where would you recommend that I would go in this area?"

A: "The river that is right here is the Kunjamuk River and from Lake Pleasant all the way down to Kunjamuk Bay and then go up into Elm Lake you would have a great 6-7 kilometer paddle there. If you go up to Piseco Lake there is a canoe access about a mile from the airport. You can canoe all the way up Fall Steam to Fall Lake and then into Vly Lake. That again is about 6 kilometers."

Q: "Since you have your grandsons with you, I am sure you can recommend some great family hikes"

A: "Right here, The Sacandaga Nature Trail, is a nice small hike. In Piseco you can take the short portion of the Northville-Lake Placid Trail from Piseco south to White House. It is about 6 miles. Of course there is Snowy Mountain, but that is a little more of an aggressive hike, but it is a wonderful hike. And in Indian Lake there is Chimney Mountain. There is also the T-Lake trail in Piseco and Panther Mountain. Panther is a nice short hike, steep up and steep down, but those are both nice hikes in Piseco."

Q: "What is your personal favorite hike?"

A: (he laughs) You are sitting on it (The Sacandaga River Pathway)! Because it is short and sweet!

Q: "I am learning that there are some great bike trails right around here, what can you tell me about them?"

A: "I don't know how many miles of trails, but it goes through the Big Range off of Speculator and what we used to call East Road off of Oak Mountain Ski Center. The trails are all through the eastern part of what we call the Big Range. If you go to the Chamber of Commerce in Speculator you would be able to get a map and I believe they are free."

Q: "What can you tell me about the Kunjamuk Cave?"

A: "The Kunjamuk Cave has just been part of the history of Speculator. You can get to it by going down the Kunjamuk River. Once you get to the bridge, get on the bridge and just a short way there is a small cave. I don't know if it was a miner or a hunter that had actually dug into the mountain. But it is neat, and there is a small whole that is like a chimney, so they could stay the night. Many people now like to go visit the Kunjamuk Cave."

Time to say goodbye

My question and answer session ended and we sat and watched an Osprey fishing in the river. Afterwards, the boys proudly gave me a quick lesson on where we were standing using the interpretive sign located on the overlook. The way their eyes light up as they pointed out the different mountains and trees reminded me of my own children, and the fact that I needed to head back.

They continued on to the nature trail as I was heading back to my car to continue on to my next appointment in Indian Lake. I was happy that I had chosen this location and felt lucky to have met such nice company on the River Overlook. I enjoyed our pleasent and insightful conversation over a picnic lunch.

One Last Stop

After the great meal and walk, there was only one way to make my "lunch break" complete before hitting the road: ice cream. As I walked up to Speculator's local creamery, I was greated with one more pleasant surprise: an ice cream menu featuring 33 flavors of soft serve! That is an automatic guarantee that they will always have my personal favorite: pistachio. 

Lakeside Licks, Speculator, New York
Lakeside Licks, Speculator, New York

What I am thankful for

Whenever I get the chance to spend time outside, I return home feeling grateful that I live in the Adirondacks and get to experience it everyday. As I drove out of Speculator, I reflected about what I was thankful for on that particular day:

      • I felt thankful for living in a place where I can kick off my heals, step out of my office and quickly enjoy a beautiful location such as the Sacandaga River Pathway.
      • Thankful for the fact that even though I have lived in the Adirondacks my entire life, I continue to discover new places.
      • Thankful for meeting my friendly lunch companions.
      • Thankful for 33 flavors of ice cream.
      • Finally, I am thankful for the community members who donated their time and labor to build the Sacandaga Nature Trail. Individuals such as these are the people who make the Adirondacks so amazing.

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